By Ruby Cline
Everything is better with company. One for sadness and two for joy, but better yet two for sadness and perhaps six for joy with a bowl of slightly stale crisps and three ciders (the fourth was knocked onto the table but that’s okay, Joanna’s phone is fine). Company is constructed by pass-the-phone-round Spotify queues and grabbing a pack of donuts on the way and do we have anything for Sephy? Vegan, you know and low lights and shush, guys, my mum is asleep and ohmigodthiswassolovelyweshoulddoitagain and cleaning up after four or five or perhaps six dinners and arranging maybe seven (is Billie coming?) chairs in a wonky oval, each with a cushion, each with a blanket because it gets cold after about ten. Remember our boy scout rules! For company, one must be prepared.
We absorb as much as we can about one another. We glean information, we are detectives, we empathise and we chuckle and we stare across at one another. For four or five or perhaps six hours we are in love with one another. Keep in mind that lives are more complicated now than they once were. We must be tactful when we ask after family who are now divorced or ill or just being really irritating at the moment (I’m an adult now and she just doesn’t get it) or dead. Mutual friends who are doing irritatingly well except for one key topic of gossip are your safest bet for conversation. Be careful with this. The pool of people who should be considered scum of the earth expands steadily from the ages of fourteen to twenty and at one point it will include you. So be kind even to those whose stories itch at the back of your neck.
The biggest gossips become tight-lipped and vice versa; you will hear incessant details of the adult lives of the friends who in childhood would hardly tell you their birthday. Try not to express surprise. You have changed too, they’re just too polite to tell you. In other ways sitting cross-legged and laughing too loudly and shushing because it’s a weekday and the poor neighbours will feel exactly as it always has. You will forget that this isn’t another day in your seemingly endless GCSE summer until your back clicks the wrong way and you faintly ache like an adult again. When the Spotify queue ends and the cooking-dinner-kitchen-playlist automatically returns we don’t notice.
We know one another off by heart by the time we wave goodbye and get home safe. But for the sake of politeness, we unlearn one another so that ohmigod(thiswassolovely) we can do this again. We forget and re-remember in spirals. Each time we set out a bowl of slightly stale crisps and four ciders (we don’t knock things over so much anymore) we are nervous again. Each time we shower and are running a bit late and forget to put the oven on. At some point Doritos became Kettles and whatever-dad-left-in-the-fridge became wine that’s still a bit warm because it was only in the fridge for like, an hour. We didn’t notice exactly when the music got less angry, when the kitchen playlist became the evening playlist, when a few stopped drinking because they were driving home and laughter became more conserved – though just as valuable. Why would we notice? We make sure to forget and re-remember. It’s polite.
Featured image: Pinterest